Friday, August 15, 2008

Red Eared Sliders and Environment

Save A Species, Save The Environment

By Lori Green
Director, Turtle Homes Rescue

Trachemys scripta is the fancy name for Red Eared Slider.

If you were born before 1975 you may remember small turtles sold in dime stores around the country.

These turtles were placed in plastic bowls that had a small island and a plastic palm tree. You fed them dried ants and they lived about a week if you were lucky.

In 1975 the Federal Government recognized the dangers these turtles possessed. Children would often handle them, place them in their mouths and contracted salmonella, an intestinal bacteria that causes severe diarrhea, dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. In severe cases even death. It became illegal for people to purchase these turtles or any turtle under 4 inches. This posed a devastating blow to the turtle farms that produced them.

Even the 4 inch law did stop them from being sold and today stores such as Petco sell them to the public, who often have no idea what they are getting themselves into. There has been a lot of improvement since 1975. Death bowls are a thing of the past. We now know that all turtles and tortoises process calcium with the help of UVB.

This is light generated by some light bulbs, but the best source is the sun.

There has been huge improvements made in nutrition for these animals as well.

Commercially prepared pellets make up most of the captive slider's diets. Although it is always best to provide them with a more natural diet of fish, bugs, crustaceans, fresh green and snails. By providing a clean environment, which consists of filtered water, varied diet, calcium and UVB, you can expect to have a healthy animal. This is where things go wrong.

You start out purchasing a small turtle that swims happily in a 20 gallon fish tank. The turtle is young. If all goes right you can expect your turtle to grow and they do rapidly. Females can reach up to 14 inches. This means you will need a much larger setup. The water provided should not be less than 350 gallons. This means your putting a swimming pool in your living room or you need to build it a pond.

Along with it's rapidly growing exterior comes rapidly expanding excrement. In other words, poop. Small commercial filters are made for fish waste and you will soon discover the smell of the tank becomes offending quite rapidly and often the water turns yellow. They never told you this in the pet store.

I am also sorry to say your turtle will never love you.

No matter the species you choose, no matter if it was captive bred or if it has lived in your home for 20 years, it will always choose freedom over you. It is you that will give all the love.

Turtles, especially Red Eared Sliders, bite and they bite hard. They are completely inappropriate pets for small children. They will never enjoy being handled. They will never allow you to play like you can with a dog, cat or bird. They are wild by nature and you can't take the nature out of the turtle.

Given all these facts it is no wonder they end up in animal rescues daily. Most animal rescues do not take in turtles. If they do it is because the agent you are speaking to knows of a specialty rescue that deals only in turtles and tortoises. Specialty rescues that handle reptiles are over run with sliders. We recognize the needs of the animal and most will not place them unless the person owns a pond.

A pond, a turtle, no problem. You can go down to the nearest waterway and know your turtle will be happy. You couldn't be any more wrong. Native turtles live in population areas. When you release your turtle you risk infecting the native animals with any parasite, bacteria or even aggression your turtle brings with it. Your turtle will compete for food, interbreed with the native animals and infect them. Whole populations of wild species have been wiped out of areas due to the release of Red Eared Sliders. Over time the native turtles will be replaced. This is a problem that has happened all over the world. It is illegal to own or possess a Red Eared Slider in Israel due to people releasing them and infecting the native pond turtles there. Instead they euthanize what they seize.

We urge you to think before bringing one of these animals into your home. Will you be able to keep it 40 or more years? Yes, that is the life expectancy of a slider if kept properly. Do you own a securely fenced in pond? Do you live in an area with mild enough winters that the turtle can hibernate safely and not risk the entire pond freezing. These are only some of the questions you need to ask yourself before you bring one into your life. Are your children getting older and will loose interest in taking care of the turtle? Are you at a point in your life when you want to travel? Are you in your child bearing years and will be bringing in a newborn baby. Are you willing to risk salmonella? We only ask you to think before you act.

If you would like to help stop the release of these animals into your area waterways please sign our petition at

By Lori Green
Director, Turtle Homes Rescue


Unknown said...

Hello, my name is Rachel and I'm a proud owner of a Red Eared Slider Turtle.I was reading some of the things stated that R.E.S. are not good pets for children,they do not like to be held,and they will bite and bite hard. We have had ours for 6mos. and don't believe any of that to be true. This turtle loves my 8yr.old son. My son will sometimes take him out with us (he brings a smaller cage to put him in if he gets tired of holding the turtle and my son knows to not put his hands near his face after handling the turtle. We also bring hand sanitizer with us)and the turtle will calmly sit in the palm of my son's hand.The turtle has never tried to bite us. He is a really sweet turtle. I guess we just got lucky. Anyways, just thought I would share. Take care of yourselves and your turtles

Unknown said...

hello i am rachel's son turtles jump if u tap on there back then pat there shoulders. red eared sliders do not bite. They just open there mouth to tell u to put them down.they need lots of space. My turtle is very happy.

Unknown said...

a good name for a turtle is nick.

kingofspain said...

Rachel: Yes, turtles do bite. Anything with a mouth can bite. Opening its mouth doesn't just mean "put me down". It also means, "Get your fingers close enough so I can bite them so you'll put me down." I've kept sliders for over 7 years and while I've never been bitten, my husband has. It didn't break the skin, but it hurt. And they jump when you touch them because they're afraid. You're a big, scary predator as far as they're concerned. Even after 7 years, my guys still claw at me or hide in their shell when I pick them up.

That being said, I also don't agree with everything said in this article. I keep 2 sliders in a 150 gal. aquarium with an appropriate filter that can be purchased online or at most good aquarium shops. We change the water occasionally and clean the tanks and it's a lot of work. While a pond would be ideal, I live in Chicago and that's not realistic here. My guys are all from the Chicago Herp Society, i.e. rescues. They have a much better home with me than where they were living. The other option would've been euthanizing them since RES can be very hard to rehome.

I advise anyone looking to have a turtle to contact your local herp society to get information on properly caring for reptiles, as well as getting an animal in need of rehoming (instead of going to a pet store or breeder). And if the time comes that you can no longer take care of your animal, remember that it is illegal to dump pets. Best case, they'll die. Worst case, they'll meet another dumped pet and start a breeding population wrecking havoc on local wild turtle populations (like they currently are in Europe).

Madam Ant said...

RES do need really big tanks, and proper lighting and diet. I agree that they're good pets for adults. Although, when it comes to traveling, turtles are much easier than cats or dogs. Toss a few feeder fish, shrimp, or crayfish in the tank, and you can leave for a week or two no problem. You can even set up a smaller tank to breed feeder fish and save money at the pet store and know you're feeding turtle disease free food. If you hire someone to feed turtle while you're away this also makes it easier. Right now I have a 5 year old 7 inch female in a tank that should do her for 2 or 3 more years. After that I'll be getting a 500 GAL somewhere. Craigs list is a really good place to get used tanks. You can very often find tanks for free there. I got my 300 GAL for nothing but picking it up. I had to purchase a topper, but it probably saved me a grand. Turtles will never love you, but mine scampers round the house a few times a week for alternate exercise. I think they make really good, and interesting pets.

stayray said...

About ten years ago a friend left me with his two hatchling Red Eared Sliders. They were very small and easily handled. I could Hold them in the palm of my hand and feed them with no worries of getting bit. I can't say an exact age that it changed But changed it did. They outgrew the easy going docile stage.Fast forward 10 is now the size of a salad plate and the other one is the size of a dinner plate. They absolutly do not like to be handled and They will bite and bite hard! Unfortunately, I know this from experience. The smaller one drew blood. :( Things may have changed, But I still love them the same. I m not an expert, I just wanted to share my experience and maybe shed some light on the possibilities/realities of owning an adult RES. Good luck :)

Nicole said...

I've had my RES for a year now. I got him in China Town actually, in one of those little "Death bowls". The sales lady had already sold several and was telling customers that turtles are easy pets, stay small, and can live in the cute little bowl. I thought to myself "Oh no, this turtle is going to die." So I bought him! I bought him a 10 gallon tank (he was about the size of a silver dollar at the time, and I'm not allowed a larger tank at school) for short term, with the necessary light bulbs, filter, platform, ect. Now he is 1.5-2 inches long and needs a big tank, which I'm excited to get for him ASAP! I feel bad about keeping him in the ten gallon this long, but I promised him I'd make it up to him after graduation, and bought the Penn Plax Turtle Topper basking platform so at least he will get the full ten gallons until then. I also just purchased a powerful filter that will help keep the tank clean. I absolutely LOVE my slider! My friend has a 15 year old RES who is huge and I play with him every time I pet sit for her family. He doesn't bite at all. And about turtles not loving you... my Marcel goes into a frenzie when I walk in the room, and when I put my hand above the water he comes right to the surface so I can grab him, and we sun bath in the yard together often. This forum made RES sound like a bad pet but if you ask me, as long as you are willing to put in the money and time for proper care, turtles are really interesting and fun pets. As for the biting, I'm hoping with regular handling he won't bite me. He makes me smile every day!

Brightwork said...

You start out purchasing a small turtle that swims happily in a 20 gallon fish tank. The turtle is young. If all goes right you can expect your turtle ...

Nikki said...

I live in the Dallas area and I’m having a problem with one of my red eared sliders she has major ear abses in both ears and I can’t find a vet or any help to get her the surgery she needs to remove them She still eats and swim syntax fine but both her ears are really swollen and I’ve noticed she’s not growing like my other turtle that’s healthy her name is Shelly my other turtles name is Lucy please anyone with information that can help she don’t act like it hurts but I know it’s not normal and she needs help